For all of the Baltimore Ravens’ historic preseason success over the past few years, it’s never done much to shorten Baltimore’s championship odds over the late summer. Perhaps NFL gamblers have finally learned to ignore the preseason games altogether (unless one is betting on the games specifically) just as the league is working to phase-out the genre.
But perhaps speculation on the NFL preseason – as in the actual preseason of the NFL, not “the league as of preseason” – could begin to leak over to analysis of regular-season contests again soon, at least in Weeks 1-3. Franchises are already said to be going through “an extended preseason” when a team comes out flat for Sunday of Week 1, a syndrome that could grow more pronounced with a new 17-game marathon of a schedule.
Maybe an NFL club’s schedule is getting so busy from year-to-year and month-to-month that gamblers should start looking at teams on a continuum, not eyeing an invisible “dividing line” between the exhibition season and the for-keeps kickoffs of the regular season. Not only are NFL clubs usually helpless to “snap” right into form after a dull summer, but coaches aren’t even planning for their teams to be able to do that. Andy Reid and Sean McDermott, among others, are laser-focused on getting the Chiefs and Bills respectively to peak in November-December-January and little else, hoping as usual to pick up enough ugly wins in September that the fortuitous late-blooming pattern doesn’t cost them a solid seed.
Week 1 point-total odds, for instance, indicate that Kansas City (and Arizona) are expected to begin the 2022-23 season scoring 30 or 40 points at a time. But on a sweltering day in the desert, there’s reason to believe that both opponents will go at a slower pace and get tired easily.
First, though, here’s a pair of midday Sunday picks in the Midwest.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday, September 11)
A common belief of Las Vegas handicappers has been that a weak Pittsburgh (+6.5) offense is just as good of a reason to set low Over/Under lines on Steelers games as was the old, primal Steel Curtain way back when, or as Mike Tomlin’s best defenses once were. FanDuel Sportsbook’s O/U total for the post-Super Bowl season opener for Cincinnati against visiting Black & Gold is set at a modest (44.5) line, possibly not fully counting the spark that new QB Mitchell Trubisky could deliver early in the campaign for a flawed Pittsburgh unit.
Even though the Cincinnati Bengals came close to winning last season’s Super Bowl, the betting public hasn’t been swift to crown Cincy among this year’s favorites. QB Joe Burrow, WR Ja’Marr Chase, and most of a dynamic 2021-22 offense will wear the Orange & Black again this fall, however, most of that core is still young and the AFC is still highly competitive and energetic. While most of the team’s defense also will be returning this season, in 2021-22, the Cincinnati did not post very impressive numbers overall.
Burrow is clearly a special player with a flair for drama when key milestones are on the line. A Week 1 victory for the Bengals would go a long way to abolishing the “Super Bowl hangover” talk that centers on the losing team of the February classic, but which could focus on the L.A. Rams instead following the latter team’s loss to Buffalo in the Rams’ debut.
Trubisky is still an eccentric starter whom it’s hard to get a handle on in opening weeks of the season, when everyone in the NFL debuts at least 30% to 40$ new looks from the playbook. Pittsburgh knows it can’t simply muck-and-grind out a season of 10+ wins, especially with the Troy Paloumalu and “Big Ben” heyday being ancient history.
WagerBop’s Pick: Over (44.5)
Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions (Sunday, September 11)
Pundits are eager to see what the Philadelphia Eagles can do in 2022. Jalen Hurts, the dual-threat quarterback in Philly, transformed the Eagles from a boring, losing team into an exciting wager and Fantasy point-scoring well in 2021-22. Last season Hurts scored 26 combined TDs, helping Philadelphia to its first playoff bid of the new decade. The “Iggles” enjoy (+2000) or 20-to-1 odds to win Super Bowl 57, shorter than FanDuel Sportsbook’s Super Bowl odds on Cincinnati, Indianapolis, or Tennessee. Philadelphia is also surpassing the 2021-22 NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys in long-term NFC East division odds, drawing a (+135) favorite’s line to finish in 2022-23 ahead of Big D.
Detroit, a (+4.5) could well be in peril of going down as history’s most exasperating NFL money-line pick. The athletic Motor City club had chances to win at least 10 or 11 games in the 2021-22 regular season. However only managed to break through with 3 wins at the end of another cellar campaign. The Lion’s reputation only got worse in 2021 when Justin Tucker, Baltimore’s PK, hit a nearly 70-yard field goal to and beat the Lions at the 4th-quarter buzzer and annihilate the NFL’s previous field-goal distance record.
But those who favor point-spread wagers often find good numbers offered on Detroit to cover against the spread, as it is obvious the club has a fondness for tight games. The Lions should have an even more upgraded supporting cast around QB Jared Goff in 2022-23, giving us reason to think Detroit-and-the-points is a wise ATS pick yet again.
WagerBop’s Pick: Lions ATS (+4.5)
Kansas City Chiefs at Arizona Cardinals (Sunday, September 11)
It is clear that NFL odds-makers expect there to be a wild and wooly game in the desert on Sunday afternoon, pegging the Kansas City Chiefs (-255) and the Arizona Cardinals with a generous O/U number of (53.5) total points.
Will each QB go for broke in spite of being surrounded by incomplete supporting casts (if not “incompletions”) in 2022-23? The betting public is smart enough to know that Mahomes, the most talented dual-threat quarterback of his era, isn’t a dud simply because of a single disappointing championship game. Once again, Kansas City is among the favorites to win the NFL’s next championship title.
The Missouri club has done a great job replacing departed superstars like Tyreek Hill with a new assortment of skill players, who can hypothetically contribute to KC’s successes as much in aggregate as Hill often did by himself. The fruitful offseason is echoed in the Chiefs’ bright (+1000) odds to win another Lombardi Trophy. But, the Chiefs’ defensive roster turnover may be the angle holding KC’s Super Bowl odds from thinning lower than 10-to-1. Succeeding the departures of defensive backs Tyrann Mathieu, Charvarius Ward, and Mike Hughes, the 2022 NFL Draft saw the Chiefs snapping up 5 DBs.
Bookmakers believe the Buffalo Bills will thrive this year, and they all agree that the Houston Texans will be crummy. The middle ground between the extremes is where the Arizona Cardinals reside, coming off a chaotic campaign that gave sportsbooks few real hints as to which way the Cardinals will be flying in 2022-23. Arizona’s QB Kyler Murray and WR DeAndre Hopkins led the Cardinals on an early-season charge that produced 10 conquests before any other team reached the benchmark in 2021. But Hopkins fell prey to injuries, and Murray struggled with his mental game in the playoffs, as the Cards limped home and went 0-1. As a consequence, speculators are not sure what to do with the desert franchise this preseason, with modest gambling action giving the Big Red average futures odds.
Arizona’s pessimistic (+3000) odds to win Super Bowl 57 reflect Murray’s late-season struggles, and the effort of emerging from the NFC West race without any more harm. Nevertheless, there are other factors at work behind the Cardinals’ preseason forecasts. J.J. Watt has gone absent from Arizona defenses with a lengthy COVID-19 bout over summer without having started so much as half of a season for the Big Red yet. Also, the talented WR Christian Kirk has fled Glendale to free agency.
Regrouping NFL clubs are not the best “Over” pick on a hot day. Blistering temperatures in Glendale will reach 100-plus degrees Fahrenheit, meaning that even James Conner will get too worn out to grind out a lot of 1st downs for the Cardinals. It is expected that KC will take at least a half to get on track offensively against a new-look Cardinal defense, thus leading to an unexpectedly low-scoring bout and a close-shave win for the Chiefs.
WagerBop’s Pick: Under (53.5)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys (Sunday Night Football)
Dallas is only a (+2.5) point spread underdog on Sunday night, a tight betting line that will gather plenty of notice and draw gambling action. Nevertheless, not even a nerve-wracking spread pick—or the venue of Jerry World—could sidetrack NFL fans from the game’s huge storyline, Tom Brady’s psyche-out “retirement” and his subsequent “return” to play ball.
The aging Brady’s effort to play championship pigskin at age 45 is not unique in the sports world. Boxing’s George Foreman won the Heavyweight boxing title well into his 40s. Golf’s Phil Mickelson recently battled off the pull of time and chronic health woes in his 50s to win a major golf championship. Eric Weddle, L.A. Rams safety, returned from a long-time retirement to help the Mountain Goats win last season’s Super Bowl last. Nothing is all that surprising about Brady’s choice to un-retire following a noticeably shorter break from NFL meeting rooms than Weddle prior to the latter’s Super Bowl victory.
Still, many pundits are dumbfounded that Tom Terrific chose to return to Tampa Bay, a franchise that bloggers believed Brady could be quitting to elude. Brady’s current club had a riotous 2021-22 season that included former wide receiver Antonio Brown calling it quits magnanimously in the 2nd half of a comeback win over the New York Jets, and in the NFC playoffs having HC Bruce Arians punching Tampa defensive back Andrew Adams.
Tampa Bay has replaced Arians as skipper with a talented leader in Todd Bowles. Speculation by bloggers includes that Brady forced the Buccaneers’ hand in letting go of the popular Arians. But it was easy to see in 2021-22 that Arians and Brady were a bad fit for one another. Tom Brady’s best weapons in his old age include his rapid release and short-passing accuracy. Even if his QB takes a beating, Arians likes to push the ball downfield with bombs.
As for this Sunday, the Buccaneers could be a solid pick ATS against a Dallas team that’s already lost an important blocker in OT Tyron Smith. Nevertheless, the recreational bettors of America just won’t let the Tampa-Dallas O/U line drop below (50.5) points where it should be.
The Cowboys will be using a healthy offensive backfield like a kid who just got a beloved old toy back. Furthermore, Brady certainly means it when he tells the Buccaneers front office to settle the coaches down and produce a few more lazy, low-scoring triumphs to save the old legs of the legendary QB. He just may have to “retire” yet again if they refuse!
WagerBop’s Pick: Under (50.5)
Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks (Monday Night Football)
Every now and then, the NFL seems almost as mischievous in scheduling teams as the PGA or USGA when scheduling chatty golfers to play with partners who hate chit-chat. Seattle and Denver have exchanged QBs as Drew Lock vies to become the franchise’s starter in Washington state, and the aging Russell Wilson goes under center for Denver.
Bookies think the old lion will overcome the newer face on Monday night, giving Denver a (-6.5) edge on the point spread and (-270) odds to win on the moneyline. But it is not just the quarterback position that’s accountable for such a bright handicap. The Bronco’s futures odds are as pricey as can be found on an NFL team that’s been laboring to win games. And while the numbers remain somewhat doubtful, users see incredible upside in Wilson’s stewardship of a team that’s been fattening-up numbers on the LOS.
The long-term potential of the Broncos isn’t the angle that works for the pick this week. Drew Lock won’t get much aid from a Seattle Seahawks lineup that’s fated for the cellar, as coach Pete Carroll goes the way of Eddie Robinson, Chuck Noll, Tom Landry, and other great coaches who, in old age, lost effectiveness. On Monday night, Wilson will appear to have proved his point…but mostly because Seattle can’t offer much resistance right now.
WagerBop’s Pick: Broncos ATS (-6.5)
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.